Caravaggio: Art historians rewrite his early biography

Costanza Sforza Colonna his lifelong mentor

05 July, 20:09

(ANSAMed) - ROME, JULY 5 - A set of 100 drawings newly attributed to the young Caravaggio when he was still studying with Mannerist master Simone Peterzano might change his biography significantly, according to art historians Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, who presented their findings on Thursday. Research by the two art historians has thrown light on an unknown aspect of Caravaggio's childhood and youth, Conconi Fedrigolli told ANSA. For example, far from being a self-taught genius, Michelangelo Merisi (Caravaggio's birth name) was an aristocrat on the side of his mother, Lucia Aratori, who belonged to the nobility in the town of Caravaggio near Bergamo, which was a Sforza feud, and grew up surrounded by art and artists.

Caravaggio was raised under the wing of his maternal grandfather, Gian Giacomo Aratori, an educated man who worked for the Colonna family, and who exposed him to art from an early age. Caravaggio might have learned the rudiments of drawing as a child, and saw the work of local painters Fermo Stella and Moietta.

Caravaggio also allegedly was the lifelong protégé of Costanza Sforza Colonna, in whose palace he lived with his grandfather, and in whose art collection he first saw portraits by Pulzone, which inspired him to seek out a geometric canon when drawing faces. Through his aristocratic mentor, Caravaggio was later introduced to the powerful Barnabite Order in Milan, from which he received his first commission, in 1590, according to Conconi Fedrigolli.

Costanza Sforza helped Caravaggio prepare for his first trip to Rome, where he probably lived in her palace, Conconi explained.

After he was sentenced to death for the murder of Ranuccio Tomassoni, Caravaggio hid in Costanza's feudal lands near Naples and with her help, he petitioned the Grand Knight of Malta, Alof de Wignacourt, who interceded with the Pope on his behalf.

Caravaggio went back into hiding in Costanza's Naples properties, where he spent the last days of his life until the circumstances that led to his death, which are still shrouded in mystery. But it was still Costanza who went to collect his remaining worldly goods, and she it was who received the pope's sentence of immunity, which had become a dead letter. (ANSAMed).

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